The Best Female Film Performances of 2010

The ladies really lit up the big screen, delivering the kind of brilliant acting work that makes picking a mere 20 that much more difficult, let alone unearthing a clear number one.

Film: Never Let Me Go

Director: Mark Romanek

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, Sally Hawkins, Charlotte Rampling, Nathalie Richard


Display as: List

List number: 20

Display Width: 200Keira Knightley
Never Let Me Go

Growing up, and even through college, who among us didn’t know Ruth (Keira Knightley), the competitive, somewhat manipulative, seemingly self-important classmate who saw everything you wanted and took it, despite being a close friend? Taking that societal standard, Knightley’s Ruth is betrayed to the viewer when her back is turned to Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Kathy (Carey Mulligan), a luxury not afforded to real-life social interaction. Catty, angry and more than a little bipolar, her final act of love to both Tommy and Ruth puts her childhood actions into a perspective so rarely afforded to us in the real world, and it’s all the more beautiful for it. Knightley’s final admission to Mulligan, with her false hardness crumbling away with each spoken word, her weak, frail body almost ready to die at that moment not out of illness but out of embarrassment, is worth the price of admission alone. Kevin Brettauer


Film: Easy A

Director: Will Gluck

Cast: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow


Display as: List

List number: 19

Display Width: 200Emma Stone
Easy A

Emma Stone is in every scene of Easy A and also serves as the movie's voiceover narrator. So it's a good thing that she's as great as she is, otherwise Easy A would be another forgettable teen comedy. Instead, this story of a high school nobody who lies about having sex and ends up as the most notorious girl in school may be the funniest high school comedy since Mean Girls. Olive's webcam-based voiceovers set up the movie's "chapters" with the perfect amount of snark and/or chagrin as she tells the story of how she gained such a bad reputation. Stone makes it easy to believe how Olive could let herself slide into her new persona. Before she was nothing, now she gets all sorts of attention (and gift cards) and all she has to do is let boys at school say they did things with her. Of course it all spins wildly out of control and has far-reaching consequences, but Stone's light touch keeps Easy A from getting too serious near the end. Chris Conaton


Film: Made in Dagenham

Director: Nigel Cole

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike, Jaime Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Richard Schiff, John Sessions


Display as: List

List number: 18

Display Width: 200Sally Hawkins
Made in Dagenham

As Rita O’Grady, the real-life modern-day suffragette who rallied the female workers of the Ford auto plant in Dagenham, England during the late 1960s, Sally Hawkins does work that’s so sublime it’s almost beneath the radar. Just as in Happy-Go-Lucky, where she had to do little but turn the full-wattage smile of her personality onto Mike Leigh’s camera and let it shine, here Hawkins presents a portrait of a working-class woman up against a high, sturdy wall of corporatized sexism who doesn’t realize how much of a leader she has become until she looks around and sees just how alone she is. Nigel Cole’s film itself is no masterpiece, a serviceable piece of pop history, but Hawkins brings a determined, chin-up heroism to the role that does the character proud. You would want her at your side while working the picket line. Chris Barsanti


Film: Black Swan

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder


Display as: List

List number: 17

Display Width: 200Mila Kunis
Black Swan

As the super sexed up Ego to Natalie Portman's premeasured Id, this stunningly beautiful Hollywood honey could easily be dismissed. Hers is the flashier, more flamboyant march in Darren Aronofsky's dance with genre jerryrigging. She's a minor villain, a less than formidable foe, and one of the most earnest enemies ever. We're never quite sure if we're supposed to hiss poor Lily or hope she overcomes chief rival Nina's nut-burger jealousy to finally take control. As a catalyst for greater inner understanding, for shedding the demons than a domineering mother has cemented in place, she definitely has her moments. Of course, she could just be a figment of a frail ballerina's inner struggles. That's what makes Black Swan, and Kunis in particular, so captivating. Bill Gibron


Film: The Fighter

Director: David O. Russell

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee, Frank Renzulli


Display as: List

List number: 16

Display Width: 200Amy Adams
The Fighter

Amy Adams garnered her first Oscar nomination for playing an almost unbearably sweet mom-to-be (Junebug). Her second came for playing an unbearably naive nun (Doubt). In between, she was a live-action Disney princess (Enchanted). Now, in David O. Russell’s The Fighter, she’s trying to venture into dark territory where past cutie-pies couldn’t cut it (I’m looking at you, Meg Ryan). From her first shot onscreen, wearing the shortest of shorts and cracking wise at anyone who looks too closely at them, she glues us to our seats as Mark Wahlberg’s hard-nosed girlfriend, Charlene Fleming. She has to stand toe-to-toe with more than a professional boxer, though. Charlene trades blows with his overly controlling family, including several foul-mouthed sisters, an abrasive mother, and a drug-addicted brother. And that’s just the character. Adams shares scenes with Oscar favorites Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, talents great enough to continuously dominate the screen. Adams matches them. Who would’ve guessed? Ben Travers

Next Page

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.